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The Gradual Introduction of Free Software in Cuba Becomes Significant to Go Ahead in the Crucial Strategy.
At that time servers had the main role regarding program implementation "today it has not changed a lot", although the movement has increasingly diversified and generalized in Cuba since then. The process has not been all conventional. Sometimes it is encouraged by the effort and autodidactic study carried out by professionals and technicians.

Many organizations have been doing a constant and priseworthy job in their centers. Public Health, General Customs of the Republic of Cuba; High Education; the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment or the Ministry of Informatics and Communications (MIC) among many others show a sharp increase of free software.

While there were approximately 200 users of GNU/Linux distributions in 1995, nowadays the number have reached 2,000.

The Cuban government is interested in this movement and considers it essential for the development of the country. With regard to this, in 2002 a strategy was designed by MIC in order to strengthen the introduction of free software in the country. Two years later the idea was materialized on the 684/04 agreement.

Even though the actions undertaken to convert to free software are various and valuable and a substantial experience has been gained by many centers and professionals of the country, more cohesion is still needed to manage the ups and downs as well as the unsound existing criteria.

The University of Computer Sciences (UCI) is one of the examples that can be mentioned regarding the use of software. This center has cleverly selected a group of students to work on them. And today not only this team has turned into a mainstay for Cubas development of such programs, but also its upward work is benefiting the universitys provincial/local affiliates.

Nevertheless, this line of work has the same ups and downs as in the rest of higher education institutions. Similar results are also evident among institutions related to the areas of management, government, and scientific development.

Useful and Efficent Ideas

Yet, one of the greatest achievements of the Cuban free software movement is precisely to become a topic that generates debate not only for seasoned professionals as the number of people talking about Linux or buying it together with Windows or keeping their opinions about it increases every time more, but also for those who visit web sites for discussions like Linux-Cuba among others.

Popularity is essential for the movement, but the enthusiasm around the topic demands more responsibility and study to avoid any judgment that far from defending incorrect or not well formulated ideas may hinder the smoothness/development of the movement.

To those both interested in the whole technological development of Cuba and in the use of software ideas do not necessarily have to be ethical and revolutionary; but also useful and efficient.

An interesting fact is how some people, without a second thought start using any free software probably to be more "in fashion."

To convert to software is not a trivial issue "and neither difficult". The best choice is to do it as long as it is efficient and through a safe and harmonic process according to the reach and development of each professional, company, ministry and country.

Quizá deberíamos optar por, en lo adelante, no llamarlo «migración», sino «transferencia», «inserción» o algo más acorde con lo que realmente está detrás de la decisión de adoptar las tecnologías libres.

Perhaps, from now on it shoud be better not to call it "convert", but "transference", "insertion" or a term more in tune with what really makes users choose free software.

This technological transfer reaches everyone and everything. It is not only about software or its application. It is necessary to develop human resources, trade and commercial strategies and already existing and future hardware...

Lets give a simple example: so-called drivers (producer-distributed codes for the correct functioning of specific hardware). There are many companies that produce drivers for Linux, but others do not, which makes GNU/Linux device distribution inefficient. That is why a Windows configured printer might no work with GNU/Linux.

Cobblestone road

Free software distribution in Cuba is much more complex due to restrictions on the importation of technology and software. However, it is a top priority for computer development in the country.

Nor can it be ignored that high levels of development in computer science have been reached in Cuba due to the everyday use of proprietary technology, mainly Microsoft, which is why the training and use of GNU/Linux distributions is lacking.

As a result, isolated efforts make it hard to keep up with the demands of a stronger and more supportive environment. Nowadays, governments worldwide have the principal role in the technological transfer process. In the case of Cuba this is even harder.

There is a multidisciplinary group in Cuba lead by the National Office of Computer Development, which is in charge of analyzing the use of free software, as well as experiences and guidelines to put it into practice.

Nevertheless, alternatives are available, such as the setup and combination of different software programs or applications in a single computer.

This will provide the necessary knowledge to develop a well-conceived technology transfer process.

Is Windows an Open Source Program?

Another common mistake is the misuse of the term "Open Source." It was used in 1998 to end the ambiguity of the term "Free Software," mainly for commercial purposes because "Free" does not necessarily mean for no charge.

Technically speaking, "Open Source" is used to refer to the Open Source Initiative, a different movement from that of the free technologies.

The popular use of the terms "Free Software" and "Open Code" software has brought about a random use in referring to the same thing, which has made it an effective strategy for trade.

For Free software to be truly free, it has to have an open code, but not necessarily the other way around. To use open code technology does not mean we collaborate with the ideals of technological justice. Open code use can make people become more dependent.

Microsoft, just to mention a name, presents the world two very clear licences that meet the requirements of the Open Source Initiative. Then, is Windows an Open Source program? Yes it is, but everybody knows it is the antithesis of the free technology movement.

*Specialist from the Center for Technological Management and Information (MEGACEN) of Santiago de Cuba.


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